Landing in NYC

Eduardo Arenas

I arrived to New York a tuesday at 4:00 am, in a flight that departed five hours earlier from Bogota, Colombia. The reason for my travel: taking part in an eighteen month training program at GameChanger. After a few weeks in the city I have found an apartment to live in, bought furniture for said apartment and started the training program.

During this time, I have found that there are some things that work very similar in New York and in Bogota, while there are others that definitely require some learning and adjustment. I want to write about two of them that I’ve found particularly interesting.

The first one is public transportation. New York and Bogota are both big cities and as a consequence, efficient transportations is a huge challenge for both of them. I was aware that Bogota’s public transportation system couldn’t be described as ‘good’, but after using New York’s for a couple weeks I can say that the difference is significant. While looking for an apartment I spent whole days going from one place of the city to another, and it amazed me how fast and easy it was to move around.

In Bogota, using public transportation can be a very unpleasant experience. There is no subway so the city relies on buses to transport millions of people every day. This buses tend to be overcrowded and slow, and a five mile trip can often take over one hour. Furthermore, there several companies running the transportation system, which means that a lot of people need to pay more than one fare to get from their homes to their destinations.

The second one is choosing your healthcare plan when you start working in a new company.

In Colombia, the basic medical coverage of all healthcare plans is set by the government, and every healthcare provider is obligated to offer at least the minimal obligatory health care plan. This means that when a person is going to start a new job, the decision comes down to which network of medical institutions you prefer. That’s it. Furthermore, if you change jobs you can transfer your existing plan to the new company, as every company is obligated to pay the health provider chosen by the employee.

On the other hand, choosing my health plan in New York felt like something that required great amounts of knowledge and understanding of the system, which I obviously din’t have. Deciding wether opening a HSA or a FSA suited me best, how much deductible I should choose in my plans, wether I needed vision and dental care plans and which of the several available plans was the best for my needs. It was an overwhelming experience that required a few hours of reading, researching and the valuable help of a teammate to finally understand and make a decision about my healthcare plans.

These are just two of several things I have had to adjust myself to since arriving to New York. The list could also include things like renting an apartment in Manhattan, understanding taxes and driving. And I’m quite sure I will keep finding more things to add to the list in the future, which is great. It has been an enriching and eye opening experience that I have fully enjoyed so far, and hopefully I’ll continue to learn how things work in the USA.